News and Stories - Youth - 17 August 2021

A powerful message on International Youth Day

A powerful message on International Youth Day

Plan International Australia, in partnership with The Body Shop, are joining our 2021 Youth Activists (YAS) in calling for change in the Australian Parliament.

Last Thursday we celebrated International Youth Day, and to mark the occasion, our incredible youth activists presented the Australian Government with a petition containing their powerful recommendations on how to improve the toxic culture of Parliament House and create an environment free of misogyny and sexual harassment.

After spending the last month campaigning to end sexism and misogyny in parliament, our Youth Activists collected more than 1,300 signatures on their petition, underscoring that serious change is urgently needed in our nation’s parliament.

Before presenting the petition, youth activists met cross-party MPs in a frank and empowering conversation where they laid out their recommendations on how to encourage and support women to become leaders by making Australia’s Parliament safer for women. These recommendations include incorporating proper workplace training, stricter quotas, consent education, emerging leadership programs and creating clear pathways for young women and non-binary people to enter the political sphere.

Thanks to Shadow Minister for Youth Amanda Rishworth, the youth activists’ recommendations have been submitted to an independent and wide-ranging review of workplace culture at Parliament House, by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins, due later this year.

We have rallied together on this petition and drafted these recommendations because we don’t see our political leaders representing our views – so we are compelled to do so for them.

“We have rallied together on this petition and drafted these recommendations because we don’t see our political leaders representing our views – so we are compelled to do so for them. It’s been a year of turmoil for young women and non-binary people looking to Australia’s Parliament for leadership. We’ve watched as accusations of sexual misconduct, assault and harassment have come pouring out of Canberra. Also, all political parties need to actually commit to having a cross section of our society represented within Parliament. We have a huge number of cultural groups in Australia not represented in our Parliament, and it’s time to take that more seriously. The issue with Australia’s Parliament isn’t just that it’s a boys club, it’s a white boys club.”

— Margaret Thanos, Plan International Australia Youth Activist


The petition included the following specific recommendations:

  • Implement policy to ensure that Parliament – and all workplaces, schools and higher education institutions – is a safe and equal space for all women and one free from misogyny and sexual harassment.
  • Political parties must act urgently to enforce stricter quotas – not just for women, but for all people of different sexualities, genders, ethnicities and backgrounds who represent the diversity of the country we live in.
  • Governments need to nurture girls’ leadership ambitions and give them a seat at the decision making table through investing in emerging leadership programs in Australian high schools and providing networks and mentorships to girls to become leaders across government, business and civic life.
  • Standing in solidarity with girls and young women who report sexual harassment and abuse, and ensuring there is an independent and confidential avenue for girls and women to report such incidents
  • Ensure no one is forced to choose between leadership and family life, and presenting clear pathways for young women to enter the political sphere
  • The appointment of women and people of diverse genders and identities to committees or boardrooms must go beyond mere tokenism – they must be respected and given equal power to their male counterparts.
  • Creating educational and learning environments for all genders around the meaning of consent, both within Parliament and our educational systems

“Sexism is still so pervasive in our society. If young people could see equality in Parliament that would be transformational in helping to model equality in other areas of life and leadership. You can’t be what you can’t see. And the sad truth is that our Parliament lacks diversity. This needs to change to reflect modern Australia, and it needs to change right now. We urgently need a diverse group of people helping to craft our policies and laws – to reflect the reality of modern Australia. Girls should be growing up believing anything is possible for them, not being forced to choose between leadership aspirations and their own personal safety”

— Susanne Legena, CEO of Plan International Australia,

In response to the reports of sexual misconduct, alleged rape, misogyny and women being victim-blamed in Canberra, Plan International Australia released a report called We Can Lead in March 2021, polling young Australian women on their leadership aspirations.

Among many other alarming statistics, the report found that 73% of young Australian women aged 18-21 do not believe that women in politics are treated equally to men (rising to almost 80% for women aged 22-25). Just one in 10 Australian women aged 18-25 polled believe the culture in Parliament House is safe for women.

You can read the We Can Lead report.



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